Thursday, January 25, 2007

Candy Shop by Jan Wahl

Summary: Candy Shop is a children's book written by Jan Wahl and illustrated by Nicole Wong that addresses the isue of prejudice and racism in one's community. The book focuses on a young African American boy, Daniel, and his Aunt Thelma detailing a typical day spent together doing chores, getting haircuts, and ultimately rewarding themselves with a trip to the local candy store at the end of the day. The real content of the book only comes close to the end of the story when Daniel and his Aunt arrive at the candy shop. At first they notice a big crowd of people huddled around the store and the owner of the shop, Ms. Chu, is standing at the front crying. At first Daniel thinks people want the candy but quickly realizes that the people are gawking at a racial slur written on the sidewalk in front of Ms. Chu's shop. Daniel and Aunt Thelma enter the shop with Ms. Chu, who is apparently a friend of the two, and comfort her. Daniel tries to think of what a real cowboy would do in a situation like this one (throughout the story he hs been pretending to be a cowboy) and decides he should help clean the sidewalk clear of the hateful words. In the end Aunt Thelma invites Ms. Chu over for dinner and Ms. Chu gives Daniel some free candy for doing such a nice thing for her.

Feelings/Suggestions/Activities etc: I like this book for a variety fo reasons. One is because the main character is named Daniel, which i think is a great name, but also because it addresses heavy topics liek racism and prejudice in such a way that it is appropriate for younger children. Often i feel that adressing issues of social justice can seem difficult mainly because it is sometimes hard to find source material that is both age appropriate and legitamatly informative. This book is nice because it just grazes the issue calmly without introducing topics or concepts that would be difficult to explain. Perhaps the most tactful aspect of this book is that the racial slur that is written outside the shop is never specified or mentioned precisely. So, without introducing a hateful wod and then having to explain how one should never use that word the book addresses the topic broadly. One doesn't need to know slurs to understand their effects and this is one of the reasons why i think this book could work well to introduce the topics of racism and prejudice for students. I think that the best activity to do with students relating to Candy Shop would be to use it as a springboard to A: introduce the idea of racism in our communities and B: identify the damaging effects of prejudice, namecalling, etc. I would do a read aloud with my students using the book and then have a serious discussion with my students about what types of feelings the story brought up and how we can adress real life situations that are similar and may affect us.

SJE: This book addresses the topics of respect for others, exploring issues of social justice, and taking social action. I think the most important of these is the social action, since ultimately the young protagonist is the one who takes action and cleans up the sidewalk-which is both empowering to know that as a child you can make a difference.

In short: solid children's book with nice illustrations and the subtlty is not perhaps its strongest attribute.

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